The idea first came to me when I was 15, an offhanded daydream that’s now spun out of control.
We hear the click of an old-style tape recorder being switched on. After a deep sigh, a male voice begins to speak. The tenor is weary, but somehow incredulous.
I knew by the time I was 7 that I was smarter than anyone else in my house. It’s not that I was conceited, but I was aware enough of myself to notice when the people around me didn’t understand what I was talking about.
By the time I was 10, I had figured out that my parents and teachers were useful only as a resource for the money I needed to get my hands on the textbooks and journals I devoured at night under my sheets with a contraband flashlight. If it had anything to do with human brains, psychology, body chemistry, human emotions and reactions, I devoured it. I read paper after paper on morality and relationships, on The Stanford Prison experiments and times when people did things they never thought they would do. I read about Stockholm Syndrome and mob mentality.
The idea first came to me when I was around 15 years old. It was really an offhanded daydream, something silly I never thought I would be able to pull off. As I made my way through high school, then college, I began to implement bits of it here and there, pushing the boundaries and testing the limits a little bit.
I could not believe at first how easy it was to slip in to this new persona. Daydreams of wealth and power quickly morphed from pipe dreams to attainable goals. I imagined myself as a local business leader, saw myself climbing the corporate ladder. I imagined the things I could achieve with the fortune I was sure to amass.
The last 50 years have gone by so quickly, a blur of broken limits and unbelievable farce. I swear, it all started out as a bit of a joke, an idea I talked about with my closest beer-swilling buddies but never would have begun if not for their dares and chiding. I’ve never been very good at turning down a direct challenge.
At first it was just about money and power. It was about a character. It was about what I could convince people to believe, how far from my true self I could wander without people questioning it. Each time I fooled someone into believing I was this other thing, there was a sense of deep, dark, tempting satisfaction.
I never imagined I could get away with this. I keep regressing my behavior a little bit further, a little bit further, to see when someone will put a stop to it. Map doesn’t support my mis-spoken words? I’ll just edit it with a marker and act like nothing happened! I have taken to name-calling and the claims I’m making sometimes feel like when your five year old insists that rain is made up of tears from giants.
As time goes on, I’m running out of ideas. I am curious whether pulling an Emperor's New Clothes would end the game or if these people supporting me would double down. What possible excuses or reasoning could they use to prop up this conflated gluttony that I have become?
I’m so tired. I can’t sleep at night, watching the world crumble around me, watching the cracks I created divide everything I have always known. I’m not sure how long I can keep doing this. My body is beginning to fail. I have to take medication to sleep at night, and sometimes during the day I can’t find the words I need. I have to write down everything I’m going to say, because sometimes I just forget.
I never set out to destroy myself, but it seems like that’s what I’ve done, and I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t think I can. I still don’t know how I let it get this far, and now there is nothing I can do to fix it.
And look, the reality is that I like the power. Even negative attention is attention, right? Even if I-
The voice is interrupted by the squeak of a hinge and wood on carpet as a door is opened. A tinny voice announces,
“We’re ready for you, Mr. President.”